What kind of child were you? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Why do you write fantasy?
"Fantasy," writes Leonard S. Marcus, "is storytelling with the beguiling power to transform the impossible into the imaginable and to reveal our own ‘real’ world in a fresh and truth-bearing light." Few have harnessed this power with the artistry, verve, and imagination of the authors encountered in this compelling book. How do they work their magic?
Finely nuanced and continually revealing, Leonard S. Marcus’s interviews range widely over questions of literary craft and moral vision, as he asks thirteen noted fantasy authors about their pivotal life experiences, their literary influences and work routines, and their core beliefs about the place of fantasy in literature and in our lives.
Back matter includes an index.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
LEONARD S. MARCUS: How did you choose the daemons for the characters of His Dark Materials?
PHILIP PULLMAN: Some I didn't have to choose. It was obvious what they should be. I knew that Mrs. Coulter's daemon was going to be a golden monkey. Monkeys for me have a kind of sinister quality to them.
There's a wonderful ghost story by the Victorian writer Sheridan Le Fanu called 'Green Tea.' An apparition of an evil little monkey appears in that story, and it made a huge impression on me when I first read it as a child.
Maybe the memory of that story was haunting me, and that's why it was so clear what Mrs. Coulter's daemon would be.
Q: Why does Lyra's daemon become a marten?
A: There is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci showing a young woman holding her pet, a ferret in its white winter coat - an ermine. I've always liked that picture. I make a habit of looking out for pictures of people, as it were, with their daemons. . . .
Q: You must have thought about what your own daemon would be.
A: Not very much, actually. I suppose I think of her as a bird, probably one of those dull, drab-looking birds, like a jackdaw, which makes a habit of stealing bright things. She hangs around inconspicuously listening for little bright snippets of conversation or an anecdote and then picks them up when nobody's looking and brings them back to me, and we make a story out of them.
THE WAND IN THE WORD compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Copyright © 2006 by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I want to be Leonard Marcus. Well, except for the gender thing. But imagine earning a living by talking to some of the best known and loved authors of fiction for children and young adults. In this collection of interviews, Marcus threads some identical questions throughout, and part of the fun is keeping track of the similarities in answers and noting the differences. Among the themes that emerge is that fantasy writing is an oblique way at getting at truths that reality-based fiction, or nonfiction, can't touch. Sprinkled amid the interviews are the writers' often charming stories of family members. The authors are presented in alphabetical order, and eager as I was to get to Pratchett, I read them in sequence. Glad I did, too, because it saved what I found to be the best for last: Jane Yolen. Marcus asks her one of his standard questions: What kind of child were you? Yolen responds: "... A little whiny. A performer. I was bossy to my brother. And I was very moral, which is probably why I love fantasy. In fantasy, you can talk about the great moral issues -- honor, heroism, truth, trust, loyalty, and evil -- things that become pretty clouded and gray in most modern 'realistic' literature." Philip Pullman talks about a teacher who read poetry aloud to his class, leading him years later to tell his teaching students they shouldn't be afraid of poetry. "...they thought the thing to do was to explain it, to 'translate' it into simple language. I had to keep telling them, 'When you do that , you take the poetry out of it. If you don't understand a poem, so what? Just listen to it. Just taste it. Just say it. Just let it do its work without interfering with it. Sound first -- then meaning." These are not just writers of fantasy. They are word magicians.
Ever wondered what it takes to be a writer or where writers get their ideas? THE WAND IN THE WORD answers these questions and more. The book is in question/answer format. Each author is introduced with a brief biography, and each section is closed with a reader - a list of books written by that author. I enjoyed reading each author's responses: war stories from Brian Jacques and Garth Nix, rejection tales by Tamora Pierce, Granny Aching character inspiration from Terry Pratchett, and good, solid writing advice from all around. This is one book that will spread through your home or workplace. I showed the book to my mother to describe something about one of the featured authors, leaving her engrossed in a story by Lloyd Alexander. When I came back in, she was reading a quote to my teenage brother. Three with one blow, I guess, but we all enjoyed catching a glimpse of what makes a fantasy writer. I'd recommend THE WAND IN THE WORD for anyone who writes or reads fantasy - or who plans on becoming a writer in the future.
I want to be an author, and this book was so interesting for me to read. I loved the questions he asked because they really helped me out a lot. Plus, the authors he interviewed were all very good, and it was cool to hear about what they read, if the revise, why the love to write and so on. And even some of them carry memories of World War II, which I found completely facsinating. Some of the authors I have never heard of before, and now I'm excited to go to the bookstore and get their books. But I was and still am extremely jealous of some of the authors- some of them met J.R.R. Tolkien, my favorite author! But besides that, it is very interesting to read. For all of those aspiring authors out there... read this book!